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Archive for October, 2010

Peter Money Interview (Click to Listen)

We were lucky enough to spend a long, rainy lunch hour with Peter Money, a Vermont poet who hails from such diverse places as Napa, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Cape Cod, Ohio, Dublin and currently Brownsville, VT.  The conversation was truly delightful (and eating Lisa’s pizza and sipping tea didn’t hurt either).

A favorite

Peter’s description of himself as a scavenger in life and in reading led our conversation through a diverse array of topics including:  reading for the purpose of writing, the power of a gift of a book, the Cape Cod Melody Tent, travel in India and Australia, the difference one person can make in the events of the world – in particular Rachel Corrie to whom Peter’s latest book Che is dedicated – the things we use and keep as bookmarks, empty spaces,  the difference email and the internet make in the serendipity of life and reading as a means of developing empathy.

Sprinkled throughout the conversation were quotes by a former teacher of Peter’s –  Allen Ginsberg (“ordinary is made extraordinary by your attention to it” or  the buddhist reminder “Ground Path Fruition” or thinking of writing as “funky independent thought“).   Peter also modeled a superb teaching technique of being able to circle around and tie seemingly unrelated thoughts together.

Speaking of circling back around: we end this episode by playing a little ditty by Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler that not only alludes to one of the themes of our discussion (beach combing) but also provides a mellow finish to a lovely talk.

Actual books we dicussed ranged from:

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses – First published in 1885, A Child’s Garden of Verses has served as an  introduction to poetry for many generations. Stevenson’s poems celebrate childhood in all its forms.

E.B. White’s works – A writer at The New Yorker and the author of many books of essays, E. B. White also wrote the children’s books Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan.

Gregory Maguire’s Matchless – Every year, NPR asks a writer to compose an original story with a Christmas theme. In 2008, Gregory Maguire reinvented Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl”.

Justine by Lawrence Durrell – Set among the glamour and corruption of 1930s and 1940s Alexandria, the novels of Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet” (Justine is the first) follow the shifts in allegiances and situations among a diverse group of characters. Peter carried a copy with him while traveling 30 years ago and had that copy with him when we spoke (complete with original bookmarks).

Iraqi Writer Saadi Youssef who has translated Leaves of Grass and Little Prince into Arabic and whose own work is carried by University of Minnesota Press.

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard – from the foreword by John R. Stilgoe – A prism through which all worlds from literary creation to housework to aesthetics to carpentry take on enhanced-and enchanted-significances. Every reader of it will never see ordinary spaces in ordinary ways.

Collected Poems of George Oppen – Oppen, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969, has long been acknowledged as one of America’s foremost modernists.  He was hailed by Ezra Pound as “a serious craftsman, a sensibility which is not every man’s sensibility and which has not been got out of any other man’s book.”

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel – From tablets to CD-ROM, from book thieves to book burners, bibliophiles and saints, noted essayist Alberto Manguel follows the 4,000-year-old history of the written work whose true hero is the reader.

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde – The Gift defends creativity and of its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money. This book is cherished by artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers.

Hear Peter read some of his work set to original compositions.

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What happens when the lives of one Nigerian and two Londoners intersect

Nigeria/Little Bee Podcast – click to listen now or download at http://www.box.net/files/0/f/26747034/1/f_523392002#/files/0/f/26747034/1/f_523389728

Inspired – or perhaps we should say triggered? – by news of the October 1, 2010 bombing in Nigeria that coincided with celebrations marking the country’s 50th anniversary of  independence from the British, Lisa and Lisa felt compelled to record a podcast about the absorbing and timely novel Little Bee written by Chris Cleave.

It is because this book is set partly in both modern-day Nigeria and England that it seemed particularly relevant to the October 1st events mentioned above. It’s dramatic plot (difficult to read at times – especially the scenes on the beach) help to explain the unrest that currently exists in Nigeria and  that continues to create a steady flow of refugees like the character Little Bee to England. It explores what happens when the lives of one Nigerian refugee and several contemporary Londoners intersect.

In this brief eleven-minute podcast, Lisa and Lisa agree that though this book deals with extremely heavy topics surprisingly the feeling that the reader comes away with  is not depressing. Rather, they both found it enlightening, surprisingly refreshing, and even funny – especially Little Bee’s description of how she came to speak the “Queen’s English” while living in a British “relocation center.”

The voice of Little Bee will stay with you long after you put this book down.  It is that powerful.

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A wondrous collection

Pakistani Podcast – click to listen now or download http://www.box.net/files/0/f/26747034/1/f_523392002.

Pakistan seems to be in the news a lot.  Any coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq always mentions Pakistan. The floods this summer brought the country renewed attention for a different reason – a tragic natural event.  We noticed that, unlike the earthquake in Haiti which stayed in the news for months, no one was talking about the floods after the first few days.

A lighter look at life in Pakistan

So we did what we tend to do, we picked up some books from our local library and bookstore about the things we were wondering about – in this case Pakistan.

Lisa LC read and LOVED In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin.  She describes it as a series of interconnected stories about Pakistanis all tied together by a rural farm and it’s owner K. K. Harouni that just “blew her away”.  Not surprising as this book was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize. The format reminded her of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpha Lahiri. The writing was superb and having read the book makes her now pay closer attention to any news from Pakistan. Embarking on each chapter is truly like entering another room of wonders that offers insight into the foreign world of Pakistan. Lisa LC enjoyed thinking about the fact the author may have walked our streets in Norwich while an undergrad at nearby Dartmouth College.

J Lisa C somehow chose two extremely contrasting books. The first a political farce - A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif and the second a nonfiction account of US policy in Central Asia - Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes uses the true 1988 plane crash that killed General Zia, the dictator who toppled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as a jumping off point. Hanif then creates a story riddled with real life characters such as the American ambassador to Pakistan, General Zia and even a mysterious OBL; conspiracy theories, Catch 22-like commentary about life in the military, life as a Muslim and life in Pakistan result.  Anyone looking for a more comic look at life in Pakistan should try this book.

Descent into Chaos, on the other hand, is a sobering read.  Well written and researched, the book takes a hard look at what is happening in Central Asia.

And of course talking about these books brought to mind other books from their past.

Lisa Christie recalled and recommends A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.  Lisa Cadow remembered and recommends The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad.

Happy Reading.

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Listen now to  BookFeast Sept 20 2010 or download at http://www.box.net/shared/2o52yfet3j

Lisa and Lisa return from a lovely six week reading haitus to talk books and the theme this time is food.

Why food?  Well, Lisa LC is wrapping up a summer with the crepe cart at Vermont and New Hampshire farmers’ markets and J Lisa C has enjoyed bringing her kids to the cart for dinners of buckwheat crepes with delicious fillings.

In addition, both Lisas are heavily involved in organizing BookFeast: read it and eat, a series of events sponsored by the Norwich Public library to get people thinking about books, reading, food and community.

Thus, we seem to be reading books either by design or by accident that have something to do with food or feasts or cooking or taste.  Our discussion led from a memoir (a format J Lisa C ususally avoids and Lisa LC loves) to two pieces of eerily similar non fiction.   From our discussion we have a few food books we would recommend to others:

Spoon Fed: how eight cooks saved my life by Kim Severson —  With this frank memoir, Severson, takes the reader from Alaska to San Francisco and New York and always back home to the midwest of her childhood.  She covers topics as diverse as overcoming her destructive habit of excessive drinking, Italian American kitchens, coming out as a lesbian, and finding love and then motherhood and more love.  She manages to write about herself without seeming self obsessed and it was refreshing to see her mother included with the more famous Marion Cunningham, Ruth Reichel, Alice Waters and others she discusses.  We both enjoyed meeting the challenging, funky, honest person contained in these pages.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender – Lisa LC discusses the magical realism threading in this tale of familial neuroses. The main character can literally taste the emotions of whomever prepares her food, giving her unwanted insight into other people’s secrets.  Bittersweet and not terrific all the way through, this novel is worth looking at, especially in combination with the pick J Lisa C brings to today’s show.

Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong – J Lisa C LOVED this novel. Seriously LOVED all the aspects — the southern setting, the main character and her unique speech affliction, her beloved great uncle, the changing relationship with her best friend and her mother, her descriptions of both the mundane and profound aspects of life — work together for a truly, truly enjoyable read.  She is truly sad she can never read it again for the first time.

We will leave food behind for books about Pakistan and Iceland and possibly politics. (Why?  Stay tuned for the next shows.)  In the meantime, for additional information about Norwich’s October and November BookFeast: read it and eat, please visit www.norwichpubliclibrary.org.

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